Most cars nowadays have air conditioner. We love to have the feel of the cool air on those hot summer days, and we don't often think about what's involved in making sure the air conditioning runs properly, that is until something goes wrong. The expansion valve (orifice tube) is a component that is used in your vehicle’s air conditioning system. What it does is regulate the pressure of the A/C refrigerant as it enters into your car's evaporator. It's in this tube where the liquid refrigerant turns into a gas thanks to the pressure that converts it.

What can happen with this valve is that it can become stuck, either open or closed, and sometimes it can become blocked. Once any of these happen the air conditioning won't be able to work properly. While this isn't a safety issue, it's certainly a comfort issue especially in the middle of summer. There isn’t a specific lifespan of the valve, it’s more just a wear and tear kind of situation. Obviously the more you use the air conditioning, the quicker it will wear down.

Here's a look at some of the signs you can watch for that can signal the end of your expansion valve's lifespan.

  • If your expansion valve is cool and frosty, yet the air conditioning doesn't seem to be blowing cold air out, there's a good chance the valve needs to be replaced. What is most likely happening is that an excessive amount of refrigerant is being used, which is causing the core to frost over, and then the air isn't able to blow through.

  • As a more basic symptom, it may be that cool air is blowing out but not cold enough. Again this is a sign that the valve needs to be replaced, or at the very least inspected.

  • Keep in mind that air conditioning can help to remove moisture from the air, which is important when you use your defrost setting on your vehicle. You won't want to go without it for long if you live in a humid climate.

The expansion valve (orifice tube) ensures that your air conditioning is working well and that the cool fresh air you crave blows out the vents. When it stops working, so will your air conditioning. If you’re experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms and suspect your expansion valve (orifice tube) is in need of replacement, get a diagnostic or book an expansion valve (orifice tube) replacement service with a professional mechanic.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Long Does an Expansion Valve (Orifice Tube) Last? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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